Saturday, April 5, 2014

Note Taking - Gluten Free Baking: Lesson 1

Note Taking on Gluten Free Baking:
Lesson 1

Note Taking on Gluten Free Bread Lesson 1:  An Adventure in Baking and Scientific Learning about gluten-free ingredients from books, cookbooks, websites  and from bloggers.

My notes were in so many places. I was spending too much time searching for notes about baking gluten-free. I decided I needed to consolidate them.  I now have a place I can return to find my notes and you can return to find the notes, if you need them.  Nothing is written in stone, except I cannot have no wheat, barley, rye, or any of the relatives of wheat.

The first thing I learned by experience is to forget everything I ever learned about baking with gluten.  With my degree in Family and Consumer Science, I learned in college how to bake perfectly with a check off list --grades were always on the checkoff sheet. I got grades on the number of checks I got for perfect baking techniques. Notice the technique lists on this sight for 4H judging of baked goods.  I used a simular list to grade my student's products when I taught Foods in Family and Consumer Science. I'm not sure that gluten-free biscuits and muffins can meet all the requirements on the list of gluten products.  

I had a very difficult time giving up gluten baking because I knew the characterics of a perfect loaf of bread, a perfect muffin, or a perfect roll.  The experience of kneading bread is therapeutic, the manipulation of the dough is creative and the smell of the baking is stimulating. Not releasing the knowledge of gluten baking, I had some miserable gluten free baking failures. Gluten-free baking is very different than gluten baking. After the embarrassing failures, I learned the difference and took on the rules for gluten free baking.

As I began my adventure in gluten-free baking, there were plenty of mentors to follow, whether bloggers or cookbook authors.  Among my favorites are Teri Gruss, MS - website, Nicole Hunn’s books and blog,  Carol Fenster, Ph.D. books and blog, Carrie S. Forbes books and blog, Bette Hagman's books, William Davis, MD books and blog, Robert Landolphi's blog and books, and the website and e-magazine, Living Without. These people and their work made it easier to take charge of my situation and so began my lessons in gluten-free living.
  1. The first part of the lesson was learning about gluten free flours.  Gluten free flours are not only different from gluten flours but each gluten free flour is different in taste, characteristics, weight, and how they can be used. Gluten free bread is usually made from several flours and at least one starch to mimic gluten bread. Gluten-free whole grain flours, high protein gluten-free flours, nut flours and binders are listed below. 
With the gluten free flours, the starches to combine with the gritty flours could be tapioca starch, arrowroot starch, potato starch, sweet potato starch, cornstarch, and maybe potato flour.

Combining different flours has another purpose.  It helps make the flour blend be more nutritious. (For foods, the reason beans and rice are eaten together in a meal is because it makes it a more perfect protein food, a good meat alternative. These two foods with imperfect protein (lacking some amino acids) can be made perfect by combining them.) Mixing several types of gluten-free flours can help make a gluten-free bread or pasta product have a higher protein, vitamin, and mineral count, which makes it more nutritious.

   2.  Gluten is made up of two proteins which act as the binder in gluten flour.  This site 
        shows a lab completed in a college foods class, a culinary school class or maybe a high    
        school to show the presence and properties of gluten.  This additional site also explains  
        how gluten is develop from kneading the dough. 

        The gluten acts as a structure to hold the bubbles of carbon dioxide produced by yeast 
         or other leavening agents which make the bread rise. Gluten is the structure that helps   
         the bread to stay in the rising position once the rising is finished and the bread is taken 
         out of the oven.  Without the binder or structure molecules, the bread would collapse. 
         So, something in gluten-free flour has to replace the gluten.   


Binders need to be used in gluten-free flours to replace the gluten.  It helps give the characteristics of gluten by providing elasticity, bounce, and moisture. Many gluten-free foods use xanthan gum and guar gum, which work great as binders but have little nutritional value.  The gums give some people digestive distress and/or allergic reactions.  These rules are generally used for using the gums:

  • When making bread and pizza dough, add 1 teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum for each cup of the gluten-free flour blend.
  • When making cakes, muffins and quick breads, add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum for each cup of ghe gluten-free flour blend.
  • When making cookie and bar recipes, add 1/2 teaspoon (or less) xanthan gum or guar gum for each one cup gluten-free flour blend.
  • Since xanthan gum and guar gum have different properties, half of each can be used in the recipe.
Slurries, which have high nutritional value, can be used as binders for structure, elasticity, and moisture.  These slurries can be used as a substitute for xanthan gum and/or guar gum. (Binders do not need to be used in gluten-free muffins, pancakes and cookies.)

1.  Gretchen Brown in Fast & Simple Gluten-Free, uses 1 part golden flaxseed meal to 2 parts hot water.  That certainly will help with the lighter colored bread because the regular flaxseed shows up as dark particles in the dough.

2.  Gluten Free Girl, Shauna Ahern, uses a slurry of 15 grams of flaxseed meal, 15 grams of chia seeds and 60 grams of boiling water in a multi-grain bread recipe.  (I've used this one with success!)

3.  This website has a slurry of water and chia seeds to use in baking.  When the slurry is frozen, it can be used in shakes, smoothies, and slushies.

4.  This website explains how to use psyllium, Konjac powder, and Agar Agar as binding agents.

5.  Gina Kelley at Gluten Free Gourmand also explains how to use chia, flaxseed, and pysllium as binding agents.

Xanthan or guar gum are good for beginning gluten-free bakers because either gum can be whisked in with the flours. Many bakers who suggested using the slurry binders still use the gums in some of their recipes so learning to use both is probably a good idea.  Using the gums first gives gives the new gluten-free baker a way to contrast the difference between the binding agents -- the gums and the slurries.  

Other Ingredients to Help Binding Agents

Generally, eggs, buttermilk, pectin, agar agar and gelatin help in binding and emulsifying the ingredients.  They also add moisture and enhance the taste to baked goods.

Expandex has been used commercially and is now available for the gluten-free baker.  It helps the baked gluten-free doughs rise better, gives a nice crust, and gives the product a longer shelf life. It memics gluten. It is described by a  GFME Newsletter as either modified maize or tapioca starch.  It has been modified genetically or by heat and is not a natural product. For that reason, I need to see more research on the product before I begin using it.

A dough enhancer can be used to help any dough, whether with or without gluten, rise better which, of course gives more volume.  It, also, will give bread better texture and improve the shelf-life of bread. Vinegar is a dough enhancer that is usually seen in gluten-free bread recipes.  Powdered dough enhancers can be substituted for the vinegar and can be purchased from grocery stores or online.  A homemade dough enhancer can also be made with fewer ingredients than the commercial product.  Those ingredients in this recipe can be (but not limited to) ascorbic acid, pectin and ginger.  (The taste of the enhancer can't be detected in the bread.) I usually quadruple the recipe and keep it in a little jar.  A few bloggers believe that it should be made fresh for every recipe.

Gluten-free Dough Enhancer Ingredients

Gluten-free Flour Substitutions

Many gluten-free bakers must make recipe substitutions in flour, starches and binders for several reasons.  They may be unable to find a certain flour or starch, a certain diet may prohibit the use of the ingredient,  or they currently may not have the ingredient on hand.  After years of baking gluten-free, many bakers have the substitutions memorized, but that is not something some of us find a primary chore.  Sometimes its better to check for appropriate substitutions.  

Some gluten-free bakers insist that substitutions are never appropriate for a product they develop. (Remember, many of the gluten-free flours have different properties.) Making substitutions may change the texture, taste and look of the product they developed.  If the appropriate substitution is chosen, the changes should be minimal. Flexability is also a key in using substitutions.  The resources for the following substitute list came from bloggers, gluten-free flour and starch companies, and gluten-free cookbooks and experimenting.  (I always make substitutions for rice flour because of its high glycemic index and arsenic.) This is not a complete list because more and more gluten-free ingredients are produced every year.  If you would like to add to the list, leave me a note.  Suggestions are always welcome.

Some of the Flours, Grains and Grouts Found from the List Below

Substitutions for Gluten-Free Flours, Starches, and Binders 

Description Substitution flours
Protein Flours

Amaranth flour gritty flour teff, buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, millet
Bean flours (garbanzo) fiber flour brown rice, fava, Green or Yellow Pea, most any bean flour
Brown Rice flour gritty flour sorghum, GF oat
Corn flour (masa harina) gritty flour any gritty flour, sorghum
cornmeal very gritty uncooked polenta or grits (coarser than cornmeal)
Buckwheat flour gritty quinoa, millet, oat, rice
Green or Yellow Pea flour fiber flour brown rice, fava, garbanzo, most any bean flour
Millet flour gritty sorghum, corn flour, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, Montina
Oat flour gritty millet, sorghum, rice
Potato flour starch used in small amounts like gums
Quinoa flour gritty buckwheat, amaranth, millet, rice
Quinoa flakes rolled oats or processed rolled oats(quick oatmeal)
Sorghum flour gritty brown rice, oat
Soy flour fiber soya, garbanzo, brown rice, quinoa
Soya flour (roasted soy) fiber soy, garbanzo, brown rice, quinoa
Teff flour gritty brown rice, quinoa  (there will be taste difference)
Nut Flours
Almond flour high-protein other nut flours, tapico + coconut
Chestnut flour high-carb almond flour, hazel nut, other nut flours
Coconut flour fiber, protein difficult to substitute (special formulas need)
Starch flours
Tapioca flour/starch starch arrowroot, potato starch, cornstarch
sweet potato flour starch, fiber arrowroot, potato starch, cornstarch, tapioca flour
arrowroot starch starch tapioca, potato starch, cornstarch
potato starch starch tapioca, arrowroot, cornstarch
Hydrocolloids  (binders)
Flaxseed meal fiber, protein, omega-3 chia seeds, xanthan gum, guar gum
Chia seeds fiber,protein, omega-3 xanthan gum, guar gum
psyllium seed husks fiber xanthan gum, guar gum
xanthan gum fiber guar gum, (flaxseed meal + chia seeds + psyllium )
guar gum fiber xanthan gum, (flaxseed meal + chia seeds + psyllium)

Additional Ingredients

hemp seeds                   protein & fiber

montina flour                protein

mesquite flour              protein

Some additional facts about the gluten free flours

Baking gluten free usually means using a combination of flours and starches. Gluten free bakers buy commercial blends (there are many) or make their own blends.   How to do that will be included in Lesson 2.

Carefully check that the purchased oat flour, rolled oats or oat groats are gluten free.  Oats in themselves do not have gluten but can be easily contaminated in the fields by other wheat crops and can be easily contaminated when processed.

In her blog, Halle states that Quinoa flour tastes better and becomes finer if roasted in the oven.  Her directions can be followed here.  Before using, wash quinoa grains until the rinse water runs clear. The reason quinoa needs to be rinsed is here.

Rice flours have a high glycemic index.  This means that it raises blood sugar levels very quickly.  Rice flours and rice bran, also, have higher levels of arsenic. Rice grown in California has a lower level of arsenic.

Legume flours add elasticity to breads, rolls, and wraps.  Bean flours can include chickpea (garbanzo), fava beans, northern beans, blackeye peas, lentils, green pea, yellow peas, pinto beans, and many more.
Many times combination of the bean flours are used and they are easily milled.  Many people do not like the flavor of the beans and some have gastric sensitivity to the bean flours.  I, personally, like the flavor they give breads. Bean flours are usually used in small amounts in flour blends.

Several sources state that teff grains are to small to grind in a home grain mill.  Websites for WonderMill Grain Mill, Blendtec Mill, Ribest Wolfgang Grain Mill, KoMo Fidibus and probably others state they can successfully mill teff.  I own a Blendtec and have no problem milling teff grains.  The point being made is that most all the grains are cheaper to mill at home, using grains or grouts.

Weighing vs Measuring Cups

Weighing gluten-free flours is easy.  One does not have to spend a lot of money on a scale.  The scales can be found on the internet and in stores for less than $25 and they work just fine.  I first fought having to weigh out the flours until I weighed the flours of a gluten-free recipe I had made several times using measuring cups.  I notice a positive change in how the bread rose and I also noticed that it didn't fall as much as it was cooling.  The texture was also lighter.

At that very point, I started weighing the flours. I can measure the flours faster in grams than measure with a cup because the flour should be carefully spooned into the measuring cup and then leveled off. Measuring wheat flour is easier to spoon in a cup because it it slicker and finer than many non-gluten flours.  Remember, many of the gluten-free flours are gritty. It  is so easy to get air pockets in the measuring cups. Think how much easier it is to quickly spoon it in a container on the scale. Also, notice the different weights of the gluten-free flours, which means the densities are not the same. Weighing the flours adjusts for differences in densities since density is mass divided by volume.

For now, these are my notes for learning about gluten-free flours and binders. I feel more organized because all my notes on this subject are in one place, but -- I realize that I'll be back to add new notes.

Lesson 2 will contain my notes for blending these flours for different products.  There will be interesting blends for unique flavors and properties.

Other Resources:

Carla Spacher

Gluten Free Made Easy Newsletter, March 2014

Disclaimer:  I have not received any compensation for any commercial products on this web page.

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